Good Work Wednesday: May 3, 2023

By Sage Sutcliffe

Top Montana News Stories

1. The remarkable life, death and tombstone of Manhattan’s Sammy Williams (Darrell Ehrlick / Daily Montanan)

Trans rights stories have been at the top of my newsfeed all week following the censorship of representative Zooey Zephyr of Missoula. This one, written by Darrell Ehrlick, shares an incredibly neat story of a trans figure from Montana history.

2. ‘Pushed out’: Two-Spirit student leaves St. Labre Indian School (Nora Mabie / Missoulian)

Reported by Nora Mabie, another important story profiles a Two-Sprit student, Sully Montoya. Montoya feels he has a both a masculine and feminine spirit, but he was unable to express himself freely at St. Labre Indian School in southeastern Montana.

3. Photo essay: 54th Annual Kyiyo Pow Wow (John Stember / Montana Free Press)

Check out Stember’s photo essay from the 54th annual Kyiyo Pow Wow at UM. Stember’s lede explains what the event is all about: “The celebration, organized by the Kyiyo Native American Student Association, was an opportunity to honor movement, family and culture, connect generations, and show off dance styles and regalia from different tribes.”

4. ICT opens news bureau in Montana (ICT Staff / ICT)

ICT (formerly Indian Country Today), a subset of IndiJ Public Media, is expanding its reach with a new news bureau in the J-School. “IndiJ Public Media and the University of Montana’s journalism school hope the partnership will increase and improve coverage of Indigenous issues throughout Montana as well as in neighboring states and southern Canada,” ICT wrote.

Top Environment and Science News Stories

1. Climate Change Is Walloping US Farms. Can This Farm Bill Create Real Solutions? (Lisa Held / Civil Eats)

After an info-packed lede, Held poses two questions in her nut graf:

“So, as negotiations around the 2023 Farm Bill, the country’s most important piece of food and farm legislation, heat up, the question is: will it play a meaningful role in addressing and responding to the climate crisis? Furthermore, can an unwieldy government bill, shaped by a bureaucratic system heavily influenced by the powerful agriculture lobby, really shift the food system toward a lower-emission, climate-resilient future?”

From there, Held reports on what the bill is intended to do for U.S. farmers, merging important environmental and economic concerns.

2. Dwindling sea ice and rising Arctic ship traffic may bring unwelcome visitors to King Island, Alaska (Emily Schwing / High Country News)

Schwing reports on King Island, Alaska, and the anticipated threats to “food security and cultural resources” on the island as climate change worsens. A short news piece, Schwing interviews descendants and residents of King Island to hear about their worries first-hand.

Top Student/Alumni Story

1. Bill requiring license to use state fishing access sites passes Legislature (Tom Kuglin / Missoulan)

J-School grad Tom Kuglin (’14) is the deputy editor for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau covering the “outdoors, recreation and natural resources” beat. His concise news story for the Missoulian offers all the pertinent details that Montanans should know thus far about House Bill 521, “a bill that will require anyone using state trust lands, fishing access sites or wildlife management areas to first purchase a license has passed the Legislature.”

Good Work Wednesday: April 26, 2023

By Sage Sutcliffe

Top Montana News Stories

1. Protest Erupts at Montana Capitol as Transgender Lawmaker is Barred from Speaking

Montana is fortunate to have a robust press corps in the state Capitol. While other Capitol press corps shrink, Montana’s has grown exponentially in the last decade.

The benefits of having reporters, photographers and videographers with boots on the ground in Helena was on full display this week when law enforcement officers in helmets and carrying batons pushed protesters out of the House of Representatives after the Republican Speaker of the House refused to allow a transgender lawmaker to speak on a bill for the third day in a row. Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, was barred from speaking on the House floor after she told lawmakers last week that they would see “blood on your hands” if they voted for a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The story became national news and journalists from all over the country have arrived in Helena to cover the fallout. But, it was Montana journalists, many of them J-School alumni, who are there to report, in real time, on what is happening.

In particular, Lee Newspapers’ Thom Bridge, ’13, Holly Michels, ’06, and Tom Kuglin, ’14, provided moment-by-moment coverage, including video and photography that gave readers a full picture of the protest and the arrests.

Montana Public Radio’s Shaylee Ragar, ’19, not only covered the moment for state audiences, but also explained the lead-up and the context to a national audience on NPR.

Nicole Girten, Blair Miller and Keila Szpaller, ’03, covered the day for the Daily Montanan.

On the TV side, Maritsa Georgiou, ’07, has been covering the events for Scripps News and Jonathan Ambarian, ’13, has covered every move for the Montana Television Network.

Mara Silvers was on the scene for the Montana Free Press and then wrote a follow-up by interviewing Gov. Greg Gianforte’s son David on how he’s lobbied against the LGBTQ+ legislation his father has supported this session.

Current graduate student and KFF/UM Legislative News Service fellow Keely Larson, meanwhile, wrote a profile of Zephyr the week before, just as tensions started to build, offering an intimate portrait of how Montana’s two transgender lawmakers are treated at the Capitol.

2. From ‘safe harbor’ to stranded (Mara Silvers / Montana Free Press)

Silvers reports on the Montana Professional Assistance Program, which once helped Montana health professionals recover from substance abuse and retain their healthcare licenses. Silvers includes a healthy combination of sources to communicate their stories with the Montana Free Press audience.

“Montana ended its relationship with a longstanding nonprofit that ran a recovery and monitoring program for health professionals, turning to a global company to fill the void,” writes Silvers. “Health care providers say the new program is hurting more than helping.”

Sharon Hancock, a nurse in Billings, has been in Montana’s recovery and monitoring program for more than four years. “We know that a person with the disease of addiction flourishes better in a supportive, inclusive environment,” she says. 

Photo by  Janie Osborne for MTFP / Shared with permission

3. Bill to Increase Funding for Individualized Education Programs Moves to Governor’s Desk (Denali Sagner / Flathead Beacon)

The Montana Legislative season isn’t over yet! Sagner keeps readers up-to-date on House Bill 257, which “will allow school districts to access greater funding for experiential learning programs.” What exactly does this mean? Sagner’s source Rep. Courtenay Sprunger clarifies: “It really is anything that would help the student pursue their interests.”

4. Big Sky, Montana: A New West Mountain Town Primed For Its Own ‘Big Burn’? (Joseph T. O’Connor / Mountain Journal)

O’Connor’s in-depth feature on the fire risk in Big Sky, MT is well worth the read. This article is part three of Mountain Journal’s series on wildfires, and O’Connor narrows in on Big Sky—a case study town that alludes to the much larger issue of wildfire danger in the West.

5. New solar array energizes Missoula (Bret Anne Serbin / Missoulian)

The sun has finally made an appearance in Missoula skies as we nudge into springtime—perfect timing for Missoula’s “massive new solar array” that was ceremoniously unveiled this week. Serbin reports on the reasoning behind the renewable energy addition.

6. Depressed? Anxious? Air pollution may be a factor (Jim Robbins / Kaiser Health News)

Another indirect impact of increasing population and climate change is emerging. “A growing body of research is finding links between air quality and mental health, as therapists report seeing patients with symptoms linked to pollution,” writes Montanan journalist Jim Robbins.

Top Environment and Science News Stories

1. California’s ‘super bloom’ is underway. Here’s why it’s so epic. (Story by Allyson Chiu, Graphics by Naema Ahmed / Washington Post)

Beautiful photos, videos and other visual elements accompany Chiu’s story about the ‘super bloom’ in California, made possibe by the extremely wet winter season. Although impressive, “this year’s showy display probably pales in comparison to the amount of flowers that might have bloomed before invasive plant species were introduced,” writes Chiu.

2. Indigenous leaders: Planetary health and Indigenous health are interdependent (Jenna Kunze / Global Indigenous Affairs Desk)

Kunze’s lede gets straight to the point: “Indigenous peoples around the globe agree that their health and the health of the planet are interdependent and in jeopardy. On day two of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, this fact — that Indigenous people make up 5% of the world’s population but are responsible for 80% of its biodiversity — was repeated again and again by global Indigenous leaders.”

The rest of Kunze’s story shares what groups of Indigenous communities around the globe said at the forum.

Top Student/Alumni Story

1. ‘She’s a survivor’: The story behind Missoula’s Iris the Osprey (Jack Marshall / Montana Kaimin)

J-School student and Kaimin contributor Jack Marshall profiles a curious character—an osprey named Iris who lives near the Clark Fork River in Missoula. Marshall reports on Iris as though she were human, and Iris’ impressive life story makes for a great Kaimin feature. An in-flight photo of Iris by fellow Kaimin contributor Andy Mepham accompanies the piece.

Photo by Andy Mepham / Shared with permission

Good Work Wednesday: April 19, 2023

By Sage Sutcliffe

Top Montana News Stories

1. Bug Bytes: Wooly Bear Weather (Glenn Marangelo / Montana Public Radio

In fewer than 2.5 minutes, Marangelo and his cohost introduce a new and interesting creepy crawly for the ‘Bug Bytes’ series, created by MTPR and the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium. Their latest clip features the Woolly Bear, a fuzzy caterpillar that is said to predict the weather. Well, kind of. Here’s what the subtitle hints about the creature:

“The weather-predicting myth of the Woolly Bear has been passed down since colonial times. The folklore holds that when you see a caterpillar in autumn, the thicker the reddish-brown stripe, the milder the winter ahead. If its coloration is dominated by the thicker black bands, then we’re in for a doozy of a winter.”

2. Becoming | Portraits of the West (Glacier Conservancy Team)

“Headwaters is a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else,” says the Glacier Conservancy Team about their Headwaters podcast, which recently launched season three. Each episode in the new season explores the history of Montana’s prized Glacier NP in about 40 minutes. If you prefer reading instead of listening, transcripts are available at the link above. (The latest 4th episode is not yet linked on this page. You can find it on Spotify or iTunes, or start from the beginning.)

3. Gianforte asks legislature to ‘strengthen’ bill banning gender-affirming care before signing it (Blair Miller / Daily Montanan)

Miller’s piece provides an update to Senate Bill 99 in Montana Legislature, which would place a “ban on gender-affirming care for minors.” As Miller’s title suggests, the bill made it through the house and senate, but the governor thinks it is not strong enough. Miller clarifies which changes Governor Gianforte proposes and how the bill will impact trans youth in Montana. Some in opposition believe the bill violates their constitutional right to privacy.

4. Missoula agencies reflect on Hellgate active-shooter threat (Zoë Buchli / Missoulian)

Just over two weeks ago, Hellgate High School in Missoula went into lockdown after an active shooter threat appeared on Snapchat. After four hours and three students were detained, the lockdown was lifted and students were released early. Buchli relays details from this event and ties the news into the national context of mass shootings (often in school settings) that plague the U.S.

Top Environment and Science News Stories

1. The Rush for Solar Farms Could Make It Harder for Young Farmers to Access Land (Anne Marshall-Chalmers / Civil Eats)

Two types of farmers are at odds as renewable energy demand increases and available land decreases. Marshall-Chalmers phrases the question well: “Millions of acres of solar panels are needed to reach renewable energy goals. With established farmers being offered big bucks to turn ag into energy, will the next generation of farmers face another hurdle and be priced out?”

2. Where There’s Plastic, There’s Fire. Indiana Blaze Highlights Concerns Over Expanding Plastic Recycling (James Bruggers / Inside Climate News)

Bruggers acknowledges this specific environmental disaster in Indiana is “far from an isolated incident in the world of facilities” like the one that recently went up in flames. Bruggers reports on why the fire in Indiana began, why it has happened before and why it can happen again if improper plastic recycling continues.

Top Student/Alumni Story

1. A river runs through it — but how should it be managed? (Joshua Murdock / Missoulian)

Story titles are sometimes hard to get right, but this one (an ode to Norman Maclean’s book and the 1992 movie ‘A River Runs Through It,’ ) is clever. J-School alumni Joshua Murdock (’16) seeks to answer the question in the second part of his title, specifically how the BLM will manage a newly public stretch of land along the Blackfoot River. Murdock is covers the outdoors and natural resources beat for the Missoulian.